Surviving your loss


Following is Iris Bolton’s “Beyond Surviving – Tips for Survivors.”

Know you can survive. You may not think so, but you can. Struggle with “why” it happened until you no longer need to know “why” or until you are satisfied with partial answers. Know you may feel overwhelmed by the intensity of your feelings but all your feelings are normal.

Anger, guilt, confusion, forgetfulness are common responses. You are not crazy, you are in mourning. Be aware you may feel appropriate anger at the person, at the world, at God, at yourself. It’s OK to express it. You may feel guilty for what you think you did or did not do. Guilt can turn into regret, through forgiveness.

Having suicidal thoughts is common; it does not mean that you will act on them. Remember to take one moment or one hour or one day at a time. Find a good listener with whom to share. Remember the choice was not yours. No one is the sole influence in another’s life. Expect setbacks. If emotions return like a tidal wave, you may only be experiencing a remnant of grief, an unfinished piece.

Try to put off major decisions. Give yourself permission to get professional help. Be aware of the pain of family and friends. Be patient with yourself and with others who may not understand. Set your own limits and learn to say no.
Steer clear of people who want to tell you what or how to feel. Know that there are support groups that can be helpful, such as Compassionate Friends or Survivors of Suicide.

Call on your personal faith to help you through. It is common to experience physical reactions to your grief, i.e. headaches, loss of appetite, inability to sleep. The willingness to laugh with others and at yourself is healing. Wear out your questions, anger, guilt or other feelings until you can let them go. Letting go does not mean forgetting!

Know that you will never be the same again, but you can survive and even go beyond just surviving.

Iris M. Bolton (reprinted from Suicide and its Aftermath).​

A Letter of Consolation by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Real grief is not healed by time. It is false to think that the passing of time will slowly make us forget her and take away our pain. I really want to console you in this letter, but not by suggesting that time will take away your pain, and that in one, two, three, or more years you will not miss her so much anymore. I would not only be telling a lie, I would be diminishing the importance of her life, underestimating the depth of your grief, and mistakenly relativizing the power of the love that has bound you together for all these years.

The longer we live, the more fully we become aware of who she was for us, and the more intimately we experience what her love meant for us.  Real, deep love is, as you know, very unobtrusive, seemingly easy and obvious, and so present that we take it for granted. Therefore, it is often only in retrospect——or better, in memory——that we fully realize its power and depth. Yes, indeed, love often makes itself visible in pain. The pain we are now experiencing shows us how deep, full, intimate, and all—pervasive her love was.

I want to comfort and console you, but not in a way that covers up real pain and avoids all wounds. I am writing you this letter in the firm con­viction that reality can be faced and entered with an open mind and an open heart, and in the sincere belief that consolation and comfort are to be found where our wounds hurt most.

What did death do to you? If your experience of her death is in any way close to mine, you were “invited”-—as I was——to re—evaluate your whole life. Her death made you stop and look back in a way you had not done before. Death has given you new eyes with which to see your life. Death simplifies. Death lays bare what really matters, and in this way becomes your judge. As we review our lives long—forgotten events return to our memories, as if they had taken place only recently.

All these times have passed by like friendly visitors, leaving you with dear memories but also with the sad recognition of the shortness of life. In every arrival there is a leave taking; in every reunion there is a separation; in each one’s growing up there is a growing old; in every smile there is a tear; and in every success there is a loss. All living is dying and all celebration is mortification too.

As the days passed, our hearts came to know that she is gone, never to return. And it was then that real grief began to invade us. It was then that we turned to the past and saw that death had been present in our lives all along and that many farewells and goodbyes had been pointing to this dark hour.

Survivors’ Bill of Rights

I have the right to be free of guilt.

I have the right not to feel responsible for the suicide death.

I have the right to express my feelings and emotions, even if they do not seem acceptable, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others.

I have the right to have my questions answered honestly by authorities

and family members.

I have the right not to be deceived because others feel they can spare me further grief.

I have the right to maintain a sense of hopefulness.

I have the right to peace and dignity

I have the right to positive feelings about the one I lost through suicide, regardless of the events prior to or at the time of the untimely death.

I have the right to retain my individuality and not be judged because of the suicide death.

I have the right to seek counseling and a support group to enable me to honestly explore my feelings, to further the acceptance process.

I have the right to reach acceptance.

I have the right to a new beginning.

I have the right to be.

I Am Alive By Jeff Schuck

I am alive.

I may have lost my son or daughter,

...but I am a survivor of the long dark night of unspeakable loss.

The unbearable pain

of my own darkness,
and, I am alive.

I am unwilling to stand idly by and allow shame to defeat love or silence to defeat action. I stand for the enlightenment of a society that would hide from parental grief, that would avoid, that would pretend,

and I am alive.

I am unwilling for my perseverance to be in vain, unwilling for the passing of my child to be in shame. I loved my child more than I loved myself, and my child's life will have meaning. In my action.
I am resolved,

and I am alive.

In a world blinded by the pursuit of pleasure, I am here to say that people are in pain. In a world rushing to get ahead, I am here to say, 

that people are being left behind.

In a world obsessed with the value of the market, I am here to speak for the value of life,
and I am alive.

This will be no quiet fight,  for I am the voice of audacity in the face of apathy.

I am the spirit of bravery  in a word of action. I am a commitment to action
in the face of neutrality.

I am out of the darkness.
I am into the light.
and I ---
I am alive.

This was given by Jeff Schuck at the opening and closing ceremonies at the

OUT OF THE DARKNESS 26 mile, night time walk event for suicide awareness and prevention, in Washington DC the weekend of August 17-18, 2002.

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